Lawyer Seeking Damages From O.C.

Times Staff Writer

A prominent defense attorney has filed a legal claim against the Orange County district attorney’s office, alleging that he is being selectively, wrongfully and vindictively prosecuted in a bail bonds kickback case.

Joseph G. Cavallo, a tough-talking attorney known for his aggressive tactics, was indicted by a grand jury last year on felony charges of conspiring with two bail bondsmen to steer jail inmates and others to his law firm.

Cavallo is seeking more than $10 million for financial damages, loss of reputation and emotional distress. He alleged that prosecutors abused the grand jury process, leaked confidential grand jury material and filed false records to support a search warrant.

Susan Kang Schroeder, chief spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, called the allegations “absurd” and said Cavallo was now using the same tactic in his own case that he had used in defense of his clients: claiming he was being prosecuted for political purposes.

“Let’s face it. Cavallo’s a one-trick pony,” she said.

Cavallo declined to comment on the claim, which was filed in April and is a routine first step to a lawsuit.


His attorney, John Barnett, said Thursday that the claim mirrored defense motions filed in the criminal case, seeking dismissal of all charges. Those motions are scheduled to be heard in court this month.

Barnett also said no similar bail bonds cases had ever been filed in Orange County and that prosecution of Cavallo was political payback for his representation of former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo in a corruption case and of Gregory Haidl, the son of former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, in a high-profile sexual assault case.

“The indictment could have a chilling effect on zealous advocacy,” Barnett said.

Schroeder said there were similar cases in Orange County and elsewhere in California.

Cavallo previously filed a $5-million claim against the sheriff, once his longtime friend, accusing him of bullying and threatening him for representing Jaramillo.

In that claim, Cavallo says the sheriff told him that if he continued to defend the former official, there would be “consequences” for his “lack of loyalty.”